November 22, 2016

Do you have the right talent mix for your large IT project?

Do you have the right talent mix for your large IT project?

This morning I wanted to reflect on some of the observations I have made over the years in my consulting career, I felt it was appropriate to address an issue that I have observed over and over again on multiple engagements – talent mix.  It is a subject that I think is utterly important to recognize early on in a project or else issues may begin to weigh down the success of a large project or program.

In many instances, senior IT leadership may decide to staff a project with a limited number of resources, as they have a perception that the goals and objectives of the project are simple and don’t require many resources with varying degrees of experience and skill set.  After all, the IT department has done several desktop migrations for a particular business unit; it should not require many resources to address a desktop migration for an entire line of business.  Just add an incremental amount of resources; based on lessons learned from previous projects and all should be OK.  Not always I contend and I write about this issue and when it is time to speak up.

Those pesky details

An apparently simple project may be hiding unforeseen complications.  When these situations occur, as they often do, senior IT leadership needs to recognize them quickly and address the issue.  The leadership team needs to understand all of the touch points, or intersections of a project, and staff the project accordingly.  In large, multi-faceted organizations, this typically means that particular attention needs to be paid to the various lines of business that are impacted by large-scale IT projects.  Perhaps this is staffing the project with very senior internal architects or technical business analysis, which have experience delivering complex projects that touch multiple applications and lines of business.  Having a bit of political savvy does not hurt either.  If your organization does not have this caliber of talent or lacks the experience, consider looking outside the organization for contract resources to augment your team.  Look for consultants that may be looking for different work, or work that

Use talent mix to address project complexity

Far too many times, I see projects get off to a rough start, or in some cases fail, because IT leadership did not do the proper amount of due diligence up front to understand the complexities of a particular project and staff the project accordingly.  In some cases, if the project has had a very tumultuous start, it may make sense to stop it altogether and rethink the business case around the project.   IT project successes hinge typically on actual rather than abstract complexity. The concept of restarting a failing project will be a topic of one of my future blog posts so stay tuned for it.

It has been my experience that the implementation, deployment, and in many cases the adoption side of IT projects, and large programs for that matter, are usually the most complex pieces of the lifecycle of an IT project.  CIOs with in-house built systems, and the infrastructure supporting those systems, often face enormous obstacles when it comes to the realization of the value and cost drivers of their investments.  One of the primary reasons I believe this is the case is that they have not allocated enough resources to get the end-users up-to-speed on the new initiative or application being rolled out.  My advice on any large project, or program, that touches multiple facets of the infrastructure and the business is to ensure you have enough resources.  These resources are especially needed to assist with bridging the traditional gap between the IT department and the business units impacted by the inevitable change that is going on in IT in 2011 and for the next several years.  Money spent today on the appropriate resources will ensure a smoother transition and adoption of the new systems and infrastructure down the road.

What has been your experience with staffing large projects?  How do you handle motivating the project team?  I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

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